A Heart Divided: Legends of the Condor Heroes Vol. 4

Written by Jin Yong
Review by Nicky Moxey Shelly Bryant and Gigi Chang (trans.)

Jin Yong is one of China’s most beloved authors; this is Book 4 of the Condor Heroes saga, bringing the initial segment of the saga to a close. It was first published in Chinese in 1954, with two further revisions since. This translation must, I think, be close to the original feel of the work. There is a whole oeuvre of Saturday matinee kung fu movies that the book evokes, as the heroes and anti-heroes unleash and counter, moves with unlikely, poetic names in long convoluted sequences. It’s a book of two halves, with the first part a nicely told boy gets girl / boy loses girl sequence (with plenty of kung fu thrown in), wrapping up some storylines from the previous three books and adding further complications; then the second half is an interesting digression into the Mongol advance into China.

The boy turns out to be the adopted son of Genghis Khan, who has accidentally become engaged to the Khan’s daughter—complicating his relationship with the first girl rather severely. We have an interesting and tightly written description of the art of warfare and siege tactics, as the boy is thrown into the position of general of one of the Mongol armies and takes us with him as he learns his trade.

Then Boy and Girl A get back together and Girl B takes herself off into exile to clear their way; we leave the Mongols getting on with it, and return to China for one last tremendous kung fu fight as all the Masters—good and evil—battle each other for Supreme Champion, with all their signature moves failing to defeat the boy, who is far too modest to recognize his prowess.

Overall, if you were the kind of kid who adored kung fu movies as a child, you will find this a rollicking good read. If not, you may find the first half a little long and repetitive; the switch of pace at the Mongol encampment definitely redeemed the book for me.